UK announces 473 more coronavirus deaths in hospitals - taking total number of COVID-19 victims to 26,570

  • NHS England declared 391 victims, including a 15-year-old, while Scotland recorded 60 and Wales 22 
  • Officials will later post a total for the whole of the UK  including deaths in care homes and other locations
  • A further 3,811 backdated coronavirus fatalities were added onto the total count yesterday
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give today's Downing Street briefing, his first since recovery
  • Ministers are pushing back against calls for lockdown to be lifted, saying it is still too soon to do so safely
Britain today announced 473 more coronavirus deaths in hospitals, taking the UK's official death toll to 26,570.
NHS England declared 391 COVID-19 victims, while Scotland recorded 60 and Wales posted 22. Northern Ireland has yet to announce.
The Department of Health said official count, which is expected to be even higher and include deaths that occurred outside of hospitals, will be published later this afternoon.
Amid fears thousands of victims were being missed, ministers caved in to mounting pressure to include COVID-19 fatalities in care homes in the daily update.
Officials yesterday - the first day of the new recording scheme - added an extra 3,811 deaths onto the tally. The revised count saw Britain jump to third in the global COVID-19 fatality table, and meant Britain's daily death toll exceeded 1,000 nine times in April. 
But top statisticians argued the recount was still thousands short because only Brits who tested positive for the virus were included. One leading expert claimed the true number would be more than 30,000.  
In other developments to the coronavirus crisis today:
  • Boris Johnson is set to signal lockdown will stay until June as he gathers Cabinet to thrash out an 'exit strategy';
  • A report has warned that London's transport network could be crippled when the UK eases lockdown measures after Transport for London furloughed 7,000 staff;
  • Ministers have admitted the government will 'probably' miss Matt Hancock's target for carrying out 100,000 tests a day, which it was expected to hit by tomorrow;
  • A poll has found two-thirds of the public believe the government acted too late in imposing the lockdown;
  • Fresh questions have been raised about the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) amid claims that it has been influenced by politicians and senior officials;
  • NHS fundraising hero Tom Moore has been promoted to colonel and honoured with an RAF flypast to mark his 100th birthday;
  • Top surgeons have warned thousands of people will die of COVID-19 if Britain's strict lockdown is lifted at this stage. 
NHS England today revealed the total number of deaths in hospitals across England had passed another milestone and reached 20,137. 
Department of Health figures show England's true death count is 23,550, meaning at least 3,413 fatalities occurred outside of hospitals. 
A 15-year-old was among the new 391 victims. Officials said they had an underlying health condition but it is not clear what this was. 
Of the deaths announced today, 140 happened on Tuesday, April 28, and the rest were spread across the seven weeks between March 12 and yesterday. April 8 remains the outbreak's peak, with 863 people dying.
Wales recorded 22 more deaths today, taking its total number of deaths to 908. Scotland announced a further 60 victims with its fatality count now at 1,475. Northern Ireland has yet to declare its number today but its official count yesterday was 338.
The number of people dying in hospitals across the UK appears to be tapering off and the Government is coming under growing pressure to reveal how it plans to move Britain out of its current lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak on the subject later this afternoon and to tell Britons that he will not do anything that risks sending the reproduction rate of the virus - the R0 - higher and allowing it to spread faster than a one-to-one ratio. 


Children are just as likely as adults to get infected with the coronavirus and spread it to other people, a study has found.
In research that will come as a blow to Britain's hopes of reopening schools any time soon, scientists in China found children are just as at risk of infection.
How COVID-19 affects youngsters has confused experts since the pandemic began because so few of them seem to get seriously ill or die after catching the virus.
In England, for example, only 10 people under the age of 20 have died with COVID-19 in hospitals out of a total of 19,740 infected - a rate of 0.05 per cent.
This had led to speculation children were somehow protected from the disease or less likely to catch or spread it - something the Chinese research has dispelled.
The study, done in Shenzhen, found the virus's 'attack rate' among children was 7.4 per cent, which was on par with the 6.6 per cent seen in the general population. 
Professor Simon Clarke, a virus expert at the University of Reading, told The Times: 'This is an important paper. It means we should be extremely careful.
'As children are carriers, reopening schools could expose parents, grandparents and teachers to infection and in turn anyone they might come into contact with... risking a second wave.'
Having chaired Cabinet this morning, the Prime Minister is expected to dash hopes of an imminent end to the draconian restrictions crippling the economy, stressing that allowing the killer disease to run rampant again would do even worse damage.
Mr Johnson will put the 'R' number - the reproduction rate of the virus - at the heart of the battle, saying he will not take action that lets it rise above one, meaning it is growing.   
Government sources have indicated he will also defy calls to treat the public like 'grown ups' by spelling out ways in which the lockdown might be eased, saying it is 'too early'. 
But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, at a briefing in Edinburgh today, said she believed it would be 'too early' when the formal review happens next week to lift restrictions 'in any meaningful way'. 
'The margins we have for making sure the virus doesn't take off again are really really tight,' she said. 
Ms Sturgeon voiced alarm that people were already starting to flout the social distancing rules - revealing traffic was up 10 per cent in the past week in some parts of Scotland. 
Despite the hard line in public, frantic work has been going on behind the scenes to develop an 'exit plan'. Island communities with controllable transport links are set to be used to trial ways of loosening restrictions while ramping up community testing. The Isle of Wight will be among the first pilot sites. 
However, officials have been heavily downplaying claims regions such as Cornwall could be targeted with specific measures. 
Mr Johnson's appearance at the press briefing tonight will be his first since resuming charge at Downing Street on Monday, and will come less than 36 hours after his fiancee Carrie Symonds gave birth to their son. The premier has delayed his paternity leave until later in the year as the country struggles to fight off the coronavirus outbreak. 
His return comes as the Department of Health looks set to miss Matt Hancock's target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of this month.
On Tuesday, April 28, the most recent day for which data is available, there were 52,429 tests carried out - just half of the target. 
UK:  The Apple data for the whole UK shows a sharp drop in walking when rainy weather hit on Tuesday and generally low levels of public transport use
Scotland versus UK: This graph compares Apple driving data requests in Scotland (blue) to driving in the whole UK (red). UK walking data direction requests are in green and public transport in yellow
Of the number done on Tuesday, some 28,539 were done at the dozens of drive-through centres across the nation.
Daily available capacity is now around 77,000 but even if ministers can boost that number to 100,000 before tomorrow it seems incredibly unlikely that they will be able to almost double the number of tests being administered.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland conceded this morning the aim was 'probably' going to be missed as he blamed the fact the government started from a 'low base' in terms of testing capacity.
Experts slammed the target as a 'red herring' that has hampered the response to the outbreak.


Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has today agreed to mass-produce a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University scientists.
Human trials of the experimental jab - called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 - started last week and the first results are expected in mid-June.
If proven to protect against the deadly virus, the deal will allow the UK access to the vaccine 'as early as possible', the university said today.
Details of the agreement - described by Health Secretary Matt Hancock as 'hugely welcome news' - are set to be finalised in the coming weeks.
Both partners said today that the venture was not-for-profit and only the costs of production and distribution would be covered.
Developing vaccinations can take up to a decade and scientists have said finding an effective jab within 18 months would be 'unprecedented'.
But researchers across the world are hurtling towards the target, with more than 100 candidates in development and some already being trialled on humans.
Imperial College London researchers plan to test another experimental jab, which works slightly differently, on humans this summer.
NHS Providers, which represents health service trusts, has launched a scathing attack on Mr Hancock's handling of the situation, saying the push to hit the number has been a 'distraction' and led to chaotic expansion of the regime.
Chris Hopson, NHS Providers chief executive, said members are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of clarity on how the testing regime will be developed for the next phase.
The Government has insisted lockdown measures cannot be eased unless its five criteria, including manageable infection rates and testing capacity, are met.
Mr Hopson said: 'Testing is one area where, despite all the work delivered by trusts and the NHS, the health and care system as a whole has struggled to develop an effective, coordinated approach.
'As we consider the route out of lockdown, what trust leaders need now is clarity on the testing regime from here on.
'Setting a target for a number of tests for April 30 may have had a galvanising effect. But what matters most is an updated strategy to take us through the exit from lockdown.'
Details and a timeline of an exit strategy is now the number one demand facing Downing Street.  
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said in interviews this morning that the mood among ministers was 'extreme caution'.  
He said: 'I think the common thread between the Governments is one of extreme caution following the evidence of the Sage committee, making sure that we don't do anything in a premature way that could risk a second spike. That would be a disaster.' 
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I think, within Government, there is already a lot of work going on as to what the future is going to look like - I think it would be a dereliction of duty if we didn't do that.
'Certainly in my department, I'm looking ahead now to the medium term as to what the summer and autumn are going to look like in the prison and court system. We've got to start that work, in fact the work is already under way.
'That's, of course, not saying that we're suddenly going to move into a new phase - we need to be absolutely sure that the five tests that were set out some weeks ago are going to be met, and in particular the need to avoid that second or even third spike in the disease is clear to me both in terms of health and the well-being of the economy as well.'
One No10 source said of Mr Johnson's message: 'It will very much be in the area of how we satisfy our five tests for coming out of lockdown, chief among which is making sure we don't risk another exponential rise in infections.
'It's still too early to be setting out any details of what any easing of the lockdown might look like.' 
Data published yesterday showed that Britain has one of the world's worst coronavirus death rates, better only than Spain and Belgium per capita.
Revised UK figures including deaths outside hospitals showed that there have been nine days when the death toll topped 1,000 - ranging from April 7 to as recently as April 24.  
Mr Johnson chaired the daily coronavirus morning meeting, followed by meetings of his political Cabinet and full Cabinet, the PM's official spokesman said.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance updated ministers on the response to coronavirus so far and the progress made in slowing the spread of the disease.
Secretaries of State then updated colleagues on the work their departments are doing. 
The Prime Minister's gave another signal that there is little chance of a loosening before June.
He told a Westminster briefing: 'I think we will have to wait for the review to take place and I don't think it is wise for me to pre-empt that.
'What you've obviously heard from Chris Whitty is that this is a disease that is going to be around for a significant amount of time - he's said we have to be realistic, we're going to have to do a lot of things for a long period of time.'
The spokesman added: 'Let's not pre-empt the review but, as the PM himself has said, the worst thing we could do is relax the social distancing measures too soon and throw away all of the progress which has been made thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the British public.'
Dominic Raab pointed to the perils of a premature easing, noting that Germany, though it contained the virus commendably, has now seen a surge in transmission since opening back up.
'Chancellor Merkel has made it clear that they might need a second lockdown in Germany if the infection rate continues to rise,' the Foreign Secretary said at the Downing Street briefing. 
Despite the tough public messages, there is evidence of a wider move to get more of the economy up and running.
DIY stores, fast food chains, coffee shops and garden centres have been scaling up their activities, and councils have also been told by ministers to reopen rubbish tips. 
Ministers are working on a series of workplace guides detailing how they could look once the lockdown is eased.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has asked officials to produce advice on how a gradual return to work could be managed safely for seven different kinds of workplace including offices, factories and construction sites.
Firms will be told to shut canteens and other communal spaces, as well as operating new shift patterns to allow for social distancing and limit the pressure on public transport at rush hour.
Office staff are likely to be encouraged to continue working from home where possible.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said a partial reopening of schools was 'in the mix' but it was 'premature' to expect early action given the difficulty of social distancing in them.
One Whitehall source said the three-weekly review of lockdown measures, due on May 7, would involve only modest changes at best.
'We are looking at whether we can undo the top button and make things more comfortable in one or two places for the economy,' the source added. 'But any idea of a widespread lifting is plain wrong.' 
Britain's roads are becoming noticeably more busy, sparking fears the country is easing itself out of lockdown against Government advice. Pictured is the A102 in Greenwich, south east London, this morning
The Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies will hand new evidence to ministers in the coming days, but it is expected to say lifting many of the restrictions would immediately lead to the infection rate rising.
A government source said Mr Johnson will be 'very clear that we will not do anything that might risk [this]… because then you are back with the virus spreading exponentially and the risk of a second lockdown'.
In more pressure on the PM to be cautious, top surgeons have warned thousands of people will die of Covid-19 if lockdown is lifted at this stage.
The Royal College of Surgeons said the NHS must not be used a 'punchbag' to avoid damage to the economy.
The RCS said the lockdown cannot be loosened at this stage because not enough healthcare staff are being tested and there is insufficient PPE available for frontline medics.
Professor Neil Mortensen, president-elect of the RCS told the Daily Telegraph: 'Just because the NHS has not been overwhelmed so far, it does not mean the government can use the health service as its economic punchbag. 
'It has been a close-run thing, and to use Boris Johnson's own words 'we have begun to wrestle it to the floor', but the virus is certainly not yet defeated.'
At last night's No 10 press conference, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab noted a reported rise in virus cases in Germany, which has eased its lockdown.
He said a similar uptick in the UK 'is a very real risk'.  
Traffic levels are down across the country, but the roads were still relatively busy in west London this morning

Traffic levels are down across the country, but the roads were still relatively busy in west London this morning 

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